TREE’s planting (more) trees – an introduction to the trees in our forest!



In December 2019, we began our transformational tree planting journey in the Wonosari village of Central Java, Indonesia. Today, we get to know this village better as we take a look at its environmental challenges, as well as some of the tree species we’ll be supporting the farmers to plant to restore the forest.

Why Indonesia?

With the third largest area of tropical forest in the world, Indonesia is a truly biodiverse land that plays a vital role in our ecosystem. However, the global demand for commodities such as wood pulp, logging and palm oil has led to the clearing of these lush rainforests, destroying habitats for endangered species, and devastating local communities whose livelihoods depend on sustainable farming.

Nearly half of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cutting or burning forests, and the country is among the most heavily impacted by deforestation. While there certainly have been efforts to stem this loss of forest through policies such as Indonesia’s forest moratorium (which stops natural forests being turned into palm plantations or logging operations), there is still so much that needs to be done to reverse decades of deforestation and protect these precious resources in the future.

Indonesia, and particularly the island of Java, holds a place close to our hearts at TREE, as this beautiful country is where most of our wood furniture originates and where we’ve already planted 80,183 trees to date. We’re passionately committed to giving back to its forests and communities in any way we can.

The village

Wonosari is nestled right in the middle of Central Java and is one of many areas in Indonesia heavily affected by deforestation and degradation. With the loss of these forests, there simply aren’t enough trees and vegetation to keep fertile soil in place, stop mudslides and prevent erosion from happening during the long annual rainy season.

The impact of deforestation doesn’t just end there. “The loss of forests has meant the destruction of local watershed (which catches all the rain and streams that flow through the area) which has caused serious flooding during the rainy season,” says Mark Schmidt, our Trees4Trees spokesman currently on the ground. “Shortages of water are so acute that the government must truck in emergency supplies of water just for household use. In such conditions, agriculture is nearly impossible outside of the rainy season.”

Until recently, farmers in Wonosari were only able to plant rice and cassava crops, which take nutrients from the soil and give nothing back. The depletion in soil and water shortages led to low yields and only one harvest per year – severely limiting resources and making it challenging for farmers to support their families and get by.

Snapshots of the fields currently in Wonosari, Java, Indonesia.

Indeed, deforestation is a vicious cycle, and we’re now working with these farmers to tackle this environmental problem at the root, with new crops and a well-planned and supported planting year.

Planting trees, planting hope

When tree planting, we look at a variety of trees and how each kind differs in characteristics and function, and what they can give back to the place in which they’re planted. It’s certainly a painstaking job to plan and determine how each species can benefit each individual while they restore the forest, and Wonosari is no exception.

One of the farmers planting a new tree into the Wonosari forest

“The trees and other plants we are planting in this project are well-chosen for targeted goals,” says Mark. “They are being planted in a carefully staged progression over five years to create the maximum positive effect in terms of forest, land and community forestation, but also to minimise disruption to the local community.”

One of the nurseries prepping seedlings before they are planted in the field

Wonosari’s farmers at our planting site

Take a look at our at-a-glance guide to some of the tree species we’re proud to be planting.

Terrific teak

Spotter’s guide:

-its crown (top of the tree) opens up with smaller branches
-its heartwood (inner part of the trunk) often has a muted yellow tone when freshly cut but later turns into a golden-brown or greyish-brown patina
-it has natural oils that help nourish and protect the wood

What is it used for? Thanks to its high resistance to decay and insect damage, teak is often used for buildings in wetter climates or construction that is in contact with water – think docks, quays and piers. This, alongside its naturally stunning warm tones and wooden grains, also make it the perfect material for naturally stunning furniture, which is why (reclaimed) teak is our heartland here at TREE!

What benefits does it bring? While teak is a long-term investment (as it takes 20-25 years to become fully grown), it is in high demand both within Indonesia and around the world, making it a valuable crop to plant, enabling farmers to diversify their production while bringing in a stable income. It is planted in border areas to mark the boundaries of the farmers’ fields (an economical and natural alternative option to fences) and also to stabilise the soil.

Did you know? When the conditions are right, a teak tree can grow up to 30 meters in height!

Mad for mango

Spotter’s guide:
-tree tops are dark green leaves and umbrella-shaped with a brown smooth bark
-its heartwood has a pale, yellowish-brown to reddish-brown tone that darkens over time once cut?
-it typically has a thick trunk that averages 90cm in diameter

What is it used for? Although grown for its fruit, the mango tree can be used for lumber once its fruit-bearing life comes to an end. Its wood is also an excellent material for indoor construction, furniture, flooring and boat building. Mango trees release a high amount of energy when burned, and are therefore ideal for use as charcoal and firewood.

What benefits does it bring? Mango trees are planted near farmers’ homes, and can help to make surrounding soil more fertile and protect it from erosion. They also provide an additional income for the local community through the sales of the fruit.

Did you know? We are truly mad for mango – globally, we eat over 1.8 billion tonnes of this delicious fruit a year!

All for albasia

Spotter’s guide:
-typically has a trunk that is branchless for up to 20 meters
-its trunk diameter grows to 100 centimeters
-its top branches spread thin and flat

What is it used for? a softer wood in comparison to teak, abasia is typically used for light construction, furniture, and lightweight packing materials. Other uses include fodder for cattle and goats, pulping and papermaking, as well as musical instruments and toys. It’s a quick growing, light weight and diversely useful wood!

What benefits does it bring? Studies have shown albasia can be used for alley cropping, a process where trees are planted in rows to create alleys to grow other crops. The albasia tree’s sparse leafage gives just the right amount of light and shade to crops that can be grown underneath it like coffee, tea and cacao. Its fast growth of 5-7 years also makes it a quick, excellent stabiliser in areas prone to erosion.

Did you know? While it contains a low amount of energy, albasia has a fast growth that makes it an excellent source for fuelwood.

Jolly jumpy-bean

Spotter’s guide:
-has a short, clear trunk of 5 meters
-has an abundance of branches, and a narrow, open tree top
-often bears a combination of flowers and pods throughout its growth

What is it used for? The jumpy-bean can be used for a variety of products ranging from food for cattle, firewood, fibre, and as timber for carpentry, furniture and parquet flooring

What benefits does it bring? The jumpy-bean brings a wide array of benefits to its surrounding environment:
-it can improve water seeping into the soil and thereby minimising surface runoff (when there is more water than land can absorb)
-it’s fine leaves quickly decompose, providing plenty of nutrients that can be easily absorbed in the soil and renew soil fertility
-it helps transform atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by other neighbouring plants for further growth – the magic of biology!

Did you know? Jumpy-bean seeds are used in an Indonesian local dish ‘botok’ in combination with grated coconut and shrimp

Totally turi (Hummingbird tree)

Spotter’s guide:
-sparsely branched and reaches 10-15 meters in height
-a soft, light wood that shows light grey, corky tones on its bark-produces large flowers 3-4 inches in length, resembling little birds (hence its common name!)

What is it used for? Its leaves, fruits and flowers are often mixed into salads or curries, while its soft, light bark can be used as poles in floating fishing nets. Turi trees are also a major source for pulp which is used for making paper.

What benefits does it bring? It can be planted between other crops to help the soil retain water and protect against erosion. It can also be planted as a windbreaker and to provide shade in plantations. This tree species really does give back!

Did you know? Turi trees are also commonly used for medicinal purposes, treating illnesses ranging from sinus congestion to sprains and bruises.

We hope today’s bLOG gave you a window into the Wonosari village and why our work there is so important, as well as insight into the species which are being used to renew and restore the forest.

We’ve just planted our first batch of seedlings and are looking forward to sharing the next update of our tree planting journey with you – stay tuned!

From the heart, we thank you for your continued support.

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